Category Archives: nbc

the new promiscuity

A couple more small items for the “content is free, networks are valuable” meme… these w/r/t television. First, this LA Times piece on CBS’s “new internet strategy”:

The idea is to let their online material be promiscuous: Instead of limiting their shows and other online video to, the network is letting them couple with any website that people might visit.
“CBS is all about open, nonexclusive, multiple partnerships,” said Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive.

A big part of this strategy is building an “audience network,” and to this end the newly revamped CBS site provides a variety of fora – ?message boards, wikis, and user-generated media galleries – ?to try to capture some of the energy of its various fan communities. It’s a fine line to tread, since fan culture is almost by definition self-organizing and thrives on a sort of semi-autonomy. But perhaps this only because the broadcasters have hitherto kept their distance (the occasional self-defeating lawsuit notwithstanding). It’s an interesting (and somewhat yucky) question, and one that applies well beyond TV: to what extent can community be branded?
Compare this with NBC’s more retentive move toward quasi-openness, post-iTunes, with NBC Direct, a service that offers free downloads of shows with auto-destruct DRM that wipes files after a week. I don’t think either network’s got it yet, but these are interesting experiments to watch.
In light of this, it’s worth revisiting Mark Pesce’s 2005 talk, “Piracy is Good?”, available here on Google Video.

three glimpses at the future of television

1. When radio was the main electronic media source, families would gather around the radio and listen to music, news, or entertainment programming, not unlike traditional television viewing. Today, radio listening habits have shifted, and I only hear the radio in cars and offices. Television viewing (if you can even call it that) is experiencing a similar shift, as people multitask at home, with the television playing in the background. With the roll out of Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) in South Korean last year, the use of television is starting to resemble radio even more. DBM is a digital radio transmission system which allows television signals to play on mobile devices. Since its 2005 debut, a slew of DMB capability devices, such as GPS units and the PM80 PDA from LG have been released in Korea. DBM systems are being planned throughout Europe and Asia, which may make mobile television viewing ubiquitous and the idea of a family sitting in front of a television at home seem quaint.
nbc_logo.jpg2. I recently posted on a partnership between youtube and NBC, which will create a channel on the video sharing site to promote new shows from NBC this autumn. NBC seems to have taken the power of youtube to heart as is producing new episodes of the failed WB pilot, “Nobody’s Watching,” which never aired. The pilot was leaked to youtube and viewed by over 450,000 people. I’m waiting to see how far NBC is willing experiment proactively with youtube and its community to create better programming.

3. In the US, the shifting of television from large boxes residing in living rooms to desktops, laptops, and portable media players, has often meant viewing pirated programming uploaded onto video sharing sites like youtube or downloading files from bit torrent. For those who don’t want to break the law, Jeff Jarvis reports that legal streamed and downloaded content will be helped by an announcement by ABC that 87% of viewers of their streamed video were able to recall its advertising, which is over 3 times the average recall of standard television advertising. While legal content is important, I hope it doesn’t kill remix culture or the anyone can be a star ability that youtube provides.

nbc and youtube, friends once again

Late last year, a friend asked me if I had watched Saturday Night Live on NBC. I said that I hadn’t seen the show in years. He mentioned an amusing skit entitled “Lazy Sunday” with Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell playing two kids who rap about eating cupcakes, their favorite online mapping engine and watching the Chronicles of Narnia movie. I had thought that it was just another drop in the “can’t see everything” bucket. Fortunately, around the same time, Apple announced the video Ipod, video download services on iTunes and a free download of the SNL skit. Later, SNL had equally funny skit with Natelie Portman doing a bizzarre, much censored gangster rap, which I didn’t see live either. This time, NBC made the video available on their own website. Both clips were uploaded, although initially the site was very unstable and I had trouble getting their videos to play correctly. Since then, they have posted a few other clips from SNL, however, none of them were nearly as funny as the first two. The problem the internet solves is that it saves me the trouble from having to sit through hours of mediocre skit comedy to see the gems. Of course, advertisers might see it differently.
Ever since the Saturday Night Live skit “Lazy Sunday,” was popularized on the Internet, NBC has been experimenting with ways of using video clips of their shows to attract viewers. Earlier they forced YouTube, the popular video sharing site, to take down clips of the video, as they were launching their own web clip service on their own site.
In an interesting twist, this week NBC confirmed a report that they will be launching a joint project with YouTube, offer clips from their shows on a NBC “channel” within YouTube’s site. As currently the lowest rated network, NBC is not surprisingly exploring new ways of using the Internet to get people to watch their programs. ABC has been experimenting with making episodes of their hit shows on iTunes Music store. However, the major difference here is that ABC has the luxury of having the popular shows “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” which people are willing to pay to download.
I’m looking forward to seeing how NBC implements their YouTube channel. There are many directions they could take, and it will reveal how they understand YouTube. One of the key things about YouTube, is that is it is democratic. A vast amount of material is posted, and users vote on the content they like by, viewing, commenting, and sharing the link. This process is the polar opposite from NBC’s current strategy of curating the “best” skits.
The open question is, then, how effective will NBC engage YouTube users and allow them to participate with NBC content. Will they allow for open comments? I would be very surprised if they let users post NBC content, but will they post clips based upon users requests? If NBC just want eyeballs and think they can just post clips vetted by NBC execs, then there won’t really be much of a change from hosting clips on their own site, save perhaps having more stable access to users.
I hope that the NBC execs are not assuming that posting clips on YouTube is some magic viral marketing silver bullet. In that, the key issue for NBC is to realize that they cannot control viewers. Hosting SNL clips are there own site was only mildly successful. Was the reason because of technology, poor word of mouth, or uninteresting content? Random clips on YouTube get half a million views because people chose that content, not the other way around. 500,000 views may seem small in absolute terms of audience size to the television marketer. However, I would be interested in seeing the cost per view to generate an television audience versus YouTube.
In the end, bad T.V. is bad T.V and putting clips on YouTube is not going to fix that. If NBC has shows they truly believe to be good, but under watched, YouTube can be a powerful tool to build a community around the show. The secondary media ecology surrounding ABC’s Lost is the current gold standard. Something on that level cannot be produced on demand. That is, a network cannot build a sustainable community around a show that no one cares about. For this venture to be successful, NBC will need to engage the audience and it cannot assume it understands exactly their preferences. If you look at their current ratings, it is unclear if they understand what viewers want. Let’s see what happens.